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Diary of a Visitors Center

When you come through my open doors, I see that look on your face.

That look of surprise when you see the map that reacts to your touch, or the look of trying-to-be-cool while secretly glorying in being the center of attention.

I’m the Visitors Center at West Virginia University. And when you’re here, I’m all about you.

After the sun rises each day over the Monongahela River a few feet from my windows, I meet new people—thousands of them actually. In one year, 18,000 tiny tots, high schoolers, and parents visited me for just a few hours.

And in those hours, there’s a kind of magic we all feel when you’re here. It’s a ride I never tire of.


From the Addams family to the Zuckerbergs, I’ll greet you the same way I’ve greeted everybody: with your name in lights plastered on a giant screen.

After that, it’s through the door to check in and on to all the high-tech gadgetry you could fit in a room.

Of course you’ll see the PRT by the window. It’s a mystery in itself if you’ve never been to Morgantown. It is a real ride that transports students around campus—80 million so far.

If you go inside, you’ll get that feel of riding above the town with your backpack and smart phone, and you’ll see what some may miss: a photo-booth camera to snap your picture and e-mail it to your inbox. It’s a little something to remember me by.

Then there’s the map of campus. Put your hand on a building you want to explore and photos and information will pop up on a screen above. From the Arboretum to the 137-year-old Woodburn Hall, you’ll get to be there, without actually being there, yet.

Ellie McCoy, your tour guide for today, will take care of that. She’s from Pennsylvania, and she’s going to be a teacher. When she leaves in the spring, she’ll have her master’s and her bachelor’s degrees after five years in school.

I love these kids who will be answering all of your questions and explain what it’s really like here, because they know best.

I also care for the students I keep in my digital scrapbook. On the wall are photos of students from all over. One of them is bound to be like you. They’re from across the country and the world, studying all kind of majors.

And then there’s everybody’s favorite: the study desks. You can remove a book labeled with a major you’re interested in, place it on the desk, and a digital notebook will appear on the desk with info about people and opportunities in that major. By flipping through the digital pages, you can see class schedules, course descriptions, professors, students, and job opportunities.

The desks use Kinect technology that you would use to play bowling or Just Dance. But it’s hidden. Seriously. I see you every time you try to peek and see how it’s done. But I’m not telling. It’s like magic.

After you’ve seen all there is to see, and you’ve taken your tour with Ellie and even met with an admissions counselor, it’s time to head home. But before you go, take a Flying WV cookie. It really is to die for. Mmm. Buttery goodness.

At the end of those hours or minutes or however long you decide to stay, I hear what the tour guides say.

I hear Ellie talking to a visitor about the parents she’s talked with, and it makes me feel good about the role I play. Like her, I never get tired of all the technology around me, but I love the people most.

“There’s been some parents who have said, ‘I wasn’t sure where my son or daughter would go,’” she remarked. “But then when they leave the tour, they say ‘I’m completely sold.’”